Birding on Bloedel: Warbler heard more than seen

“A Year of Birding in Bloedel” is a column that runs every Friday in the Bainbridge Islander. The project is planned to continue in 52 parts through 2014 to help readers find and identify birds in the island’s garden sanctuary. Beginning with this entry on the bald eagle, each column will also be published  here on the Bainbridge Conversation blog each Friday. 

The author, Ted Anderson, is a retired professor of biology, having taught at McKendree University (Ill.) for 32 years and for the University of Michigan’s summer biological station for 20 years, where he frequently taught the biology of birds.

Anderson is also the author of “Biology of the Ubiquitous House Sparrow, from Genes to Populations” (2006), and “The Life of David Lack, Father of Evolutionary Ecology” (2013). Ted and his wife Carol have been members of Bloedel Reserve for seven years. They live in Kingston. 

The migratory species that spend their summers and nest at Boedel began to arrive in mid-April, with plenty of time to spare before the celebration of International Migratory Bird Day on May 10. One such species, a common summer resident in forested areas with extensive undergrowth at Bloedel, is the Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla).

It has made the long journey from Central America where it spends the winter. Wilson’s Warbler is more often heard than seen, its song a melodious “cheerycheery cheeeycheery chewchew,” the last notes slightly lower in pitch.

A glimpse of the singer is well worth the patience and work. The male has a bright yellow head and underside, gray wings and tail, and a greenish back — and a black cap on top of its head accentuating the bright yellow coloration. Females are a duller yellow and lack the black cap.

Wilson’s Warbler is named for the man who is often referred to as the “father of American ornithology.” Alexander Wilson was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1766, but immigrated to America after being imprisoned for writing poetry protesting the working conditions of garment workers in Scotland. Here he developed an interest in natural history and decided to produce his own paintings of American birds. His hand-painted engravings of 268 bird species were published in three volumes entitled “American Ornithology” between 1808 and 1814 (2014 is thus the bicentennial of its completion).

Wilson’s Warbler was one of 26 species new to science that appeared in the folios. Wilson’s work helped to inspire John James Audubon to produce his magnificent body of work.

Listen and look for Wilsons’ Warbler in dense forest undergrowth near the Bird Marsh and near the Christmas Pond.

Bainbridge Islander, Birding

About Ethan Fowler

Ethan Fowler has more than 20 years of journalism experience with 19 years of daily and weekly newspaper experience covering news, features and sports, as well as being an editor for 14 of those years. He has won several writing awards over the years in Washington state, Virginia, Texas and Georgia, including award-winning investigative journalism. Fowler was paid by the Review & Herald Publishing Association in 2009 to co-author a book, "Brushed Back: The Story of Trevor Bullock," with his wife. The book details the real life of a top minor league pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and his Christian faith. "Brushed Back" has sold more than 2,000 copies since its release.